Update: News is flashing across the wires that George Zimmerman, acquitted two months ago in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, was detained today after his estranged wife, Shellie, reportedly called police asserting that Zimmerman threatened her with a firearm, but police are apparently not certain what actually happened.
A late news report says that he is no longer being detained. The Daily Mail now says Zimmerman has left the scene and that Shellie Zimmerman and her father are refusing to press charges. That appears to be confirmed by CBS News. And late in the afternoon, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Shellie Zimmerman changed her story and said she never actually saw Zimmerman with a gun.
At this point, there is considerable speculation about the facts, and the incident has provided one more opportunity for the press to sensationalize a story with Zimmerman’s name in the headline. The incident is reportedly being investigated as a “domestic battery.” CBS News has already updated its version of the story.
Earlier this column noted that some Seattle Times readers are chortling over this latest incident, but there appears to be considerable question as to whether Zimmerman is in trouble, and whether a gun was actually involved. CNN quoted Lake Mary, Fla., police spokesman Zach Hudson, who reportedly said a gun was found in the home of Shellie Zimmerman’s father in Lake Mary, “but he added that it was not a part of the altercation,” the cable network said.
Update: Now, however, even that part of the story has changed, with a local ABC affiliate reporting that Hudson denied a gun was found at the scene. "We did not find a gun, did not locate a weapon," Hudson was quoted as stating. "Nobody ever saw a gun. A gun is not part of this story."
This raises the question: Who got it wrong? Was it the police in early reports of the incident, or the press conveniently misunderstanding what was being said so it could be reported that Zimmerman was once again in trouble, with a firearm?
Nationally-recognized self-defense expert Massad Ayoob published a Sunday column on the Zimmerman case aftermath at Backwoods Home. In that installment – the 18th in a series – Ayoob delves into the aftermath of a self-defense shooting and notes matter-of-factly that divorce is “something not uncommon after traumas like what he and his family were put through.” Shellie Zimmerman filed for divorce last week.
The Zimmerman case provided a launch platform for anti-gunners to attack so-called "stand your ground" laws, though that issue never was part of the defense. It also has allowed attacks against concealed carry laws nationwide, and led to calls for revisions in self-defense laws around the country.
An initial Associated Press report in the Seattle Times said the incident began unfolding shortly after 2 p.m. (11 a.m. PDT) when Shellie Zimmerman called police. But that story also noted that last month, she pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanor perjury for lying about the couple’s finances at a bail hearing early in the Zimmerman case. She drew a one-year probationary sentence and 100 hours of community service, the Associated Press said.
Zimmerman has been under a microscope from the outset of the case, and in the aftermath of the not-guilty verdict, his every move has been subject to publicity. He was pulled over in Texas, he was hailed for rescuing a family from a car crash, he was pulled over for speeding in Florida, and now Monday’s altercation has him in the headlines again.
Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell perhaps put it best, explaining to the Associated Press, “We’ve only heard one side of the story so far.” It was Bracknell who was quoted by the Atlanta newspaper saying that Shellie Zimmerman had changed her story.
But since Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Martin, anti-gunners have been interested in only one side, that which paints the former neighborhood watch captain as bad news with a gun. Ayoob’s long-running series about the case has earned accolades for going into great detail about the investigation, the trial and Martin’s background that has had little, if any exposure.
Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, reportedly sent out a message on Twitter that the public should not “jump to conclusions,” but judging from some comments on the Seattle Times feedback page, Seattleites didn’t get that note.
But police in Lake Mary seem to have taken that approach.